Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Birthday Steve Garvey!

What brings me out of my latest, greatest, no-blogging funk? The chance to win a contest, of course!

There's no sugarcoating it. I want every card in existence, and the only way that's gonna happen is if 99.99999999% of them come to me free of charge somehow. (It's not gonna happen.) Thanks to Jim of Garvey Cey Russell Lopes (GCRL), I have a chance to reduce the number of cards I need from a gazillion-and-one to just a gazillion. It wouldn't be just any card, either, but a magical 1952 Topps specimen!

Though my motives may be crass, I am also more than happy to wake up long enough to celebrate my Dodgers. And, at least when I was a kid, there was no player that represented my team more than Steve Garvey. In fact, in the formative years of my fandom, Garvey was to me the prototypical baseball player. The way he wore his uniform, the way he stood in the batter's box, and the way he took his stance on defense were, in my mind, simply the way it was supposed to be done. Anything else was a variation on the theme of ballplayer/Garvey, Garvey/ballplayer.

1977 O-Pee-Chee Steve Garvey LAD #255

The Topps version of Garvey's 1977 card was the prototypical baseball card of my youth. The prototype of the prototype. It even got one of the very few posts on a blog of mine that lasted a few weeks in September of 2011. (See, this blog is actually an improvement!) So when I saw this O-Pee-Chee variation, sans all-star designation, I had to have it. This is what it looks like when a cartoon character, designed to be the "perfect" ballplayer, stands ready to play first base.

Happy Birthday, Steve Garvey.

Here's hoping this post results in one less card in the world for me to still need.

And thanks for the contest, Jim.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fan Appreciation Day

There are times when Fan Appreciation Day is more meaningful than at other times. When a team is a perennial contender, like the Dodgers were for all of my childhood, it's hardly necessary to thank fans for following their exploits. But when a team has hit on hard times, as the Dodgers did (and, in terms of championships, still has) beginning at about the time I became an adult, fans who stick by their team deserve a little thanks.

The turn of the present century was a particularly dark time for the Dodger franchise, being the FOX ownership years. This was when tradition was thrown out of the window. The opportunity to promote AAA manager Mike Scioscia as the rightful heir to the Alston-Lasorda tradition was the thing that bothered me most. But there were plenty of reasons to divert my attention elsewhere.

I recently made a cheap eBay purchase that enabled me to partake in a bit of that team's attempts to placate its fans: these cool oddball cards that they gave out on Fan Appreciation Day from 1997-2001, and 2003. They came, perforated for removal, on 8.5 x 11 sheets that included promotional schedules and other assorted advertisements for the next season. I play with my cards, as you know, so remove them I did. They're actually pretty cool from a baseball card standpoint, if you can set aside the disappointment in the team elicited by the players portrayed.

Lets take a look at each year's three-card set, what makes the players disappointing, and what makes the cards worth having.


1997 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Hideo Nomo LAD
1997 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Chan Ho Park LAD

This was the only one among the sets here in which different designs were used for each card. Fittingly, the Nomo card is the best of the bunch, as he's probably the player here with the least amount a of disappointment attached to their Dodger days. The arrival of The Tornado from Japan was probably the most exciting thing to happen to the franchise in the 1990s. After a couple of phenomenal seasons, however, hitters managed to get used to his unusual delivery, and Nomo battled wildness during an itinerant stretch of his career in the middle of this time period.

Chan Ho Park gets a pretty nifty-looking card, too, which prominently features beautiful Dodger Stadium. He shows up again later, and we'll discuss the nature of his disappointment then.

1997 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Mike Piazza LAD

The disappointment surrounding Mike Piazza, of course, is that the Dodgers didn't manage to hold on to him. His card here isn't terrible, but it's the weakest of the batch. The card backs are pretty cool. Unlike the front, they feature a unified design, each with neat little iconographic player drawings. I can't say that I managed to catch any of Mike's television appearances mentioned here, but it's not hard to imagine his Baywatch meeting with Pam Anderson and her unnatural endowments (though it's a little disturbing to do so).


1998 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Raul Mondesi LAD
1998 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Gary Sheffield LAD

Here begin the unified card designs. This one is clean and unobtrusive, highlighting various stages of action. Super action: Mondesi sliding into a base (getting back to first on a pickoff attempt, I believe). Mild action (probably not the right term for Sheffield's violently-wagging bat): this card is great for helping to recall his unique batter's box ritual. Non-action: Karros blowing a bubble and waiting for the Bill Russell/Glenn Hoffman era to come to an end.

1998 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Eric Karros LAD

Disappointment: Mondesi had some pop in his bat, running speed, and a rifle arm out in right field. But he had no plate discipline and wasn't much of a "chemistry" guy. Sheffield was an awesome hitter, but at this stage of his career there was still no "team" in Sheffield. Karros, of course, is still the franchise home run leader, but he always suffered by comparison to Steve Garvey, which in Sabermetric retrospect, ain't so hot. At least he was better than Greg Brock.

We get to enjoy a visit to the office of "Dr. Baseball" on the backs of these cards, on which he examines our knowledge of each player.


1999 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Kevin Brown LAD #2
1999 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Eric Karros LAD #3

These are a little reminiscent of 1954 Bowman, I guess. Certainly of that era, in general. The big team logo is nice. I always dig green on cards. And the background concept is nice, in theory. A little less so in practice. Brown and Beltre look good. The Farmer John ad on Beltre's card is especially evocative of Dodger Baseball (you can't help but hear Vin Scully's voice extolling the virtues of the Dodger Dog). But what the heck is Karros doing in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh?

1999 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Adrian Beltre LAD #1

Disappointment: Kevin Brown was much like Sheffield, massively talented but unpleasant, and unable to help bring a pennant to Chavez Ravine. The disappointment surrounding Beltre is that the Dodgers managed to sign him too young, forcing the commissioner's office to declare him a free agent just as he was hitting his prime after a breakout season in 2004. Also disappointing are these card backs. Ugly, and with a truly lame attempt at old-school baseball lingo.


2000 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Shawn Green LAD
2000 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Gary Sheffield LAD

These are some really nice, colorful cards, blending the retro vibe with modern sensibilities. Gotta dig 'em. Unfortunately, unlike the previous sets, their aren't quite the standard 2.5 x 3.5 cards size, being about an sixteenth of an inch smaller in each direction. But close enough.

Shawn Green is the newbie here. He wasn't exactly disappointing. In fact, he took the field just about every day of his five years with the Dodgers and did his job, driving in runs from the middle of the order. His Dodger highlight was a four-homer game in 2002. But the Dodgers didn't manage to win while he was there, and he didn't exactly have a "Hollywood" personality, so his stint in Blue was largely forgettable (at least to me, from the east coast at the time), despite his success on the field.

2000 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Eric Karros LAD

For the backs we get a team photo puzzle. I scanned all three and was going to put then together to show here, but the photo extended into the gaps between cards on the perforated sheet, so it made for an awkward full picture with some missing Dodger faces. You'll just have to settle for this glimpse of the enormous, hypertensive, unfortunately-named Mike Fetters looming large among this third of the group.


2001 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Gary Sheffield LAD #3
2001 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Paul Lo Duca LAD #1

Not the best design, but not horrible. Interesting colors and textures. And the backs do a nice job of carrying the design themes over. Unfortunately, while the previous year's cards were a little smaller than standard size, for 2001, it got worse. They're slightly bigger than the standard, making them difficult to store with other cards stacked in boxes without damaging the edges. In fact, I'm not sure what to do: leave them as they are and take the inevitable damage over time, trim the extra sixteenth of an inch off of them, or store them separately with the other too-large cards, such as 1989 Bowman, '80s-'90s Topps Big cards, and 50's Topps and Bowman issues. (I decided to trim them, and they look fine. Hope I didn't give any condition-sensitive people out there heartburn.)

2001 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Chan Ho Park LAD #2

Disappointment: My first-ever visit to Candlestick Park (talk about disappointments... what a dump!) encapsulated what was disappointing about Chan Ho Park. On April 17, 1996, making the third start of his career, he struck out six batters in two innings... but also walked five and was removed in the third inning without recording an out. (The Dodgers went on to beat the Friggin' Giants, 11-2, I'm happy to say.) Park never quite tamed his control enough to achieve the stardom predicted for him, though he did end up having a long and largely-productive career, especially if you ignore the two grands slams he gave up to Fernando Tatis... in one inning!


2003 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Paul Lo Duca LAD
2003 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Eric Gagne LAD

Not sure why they didn't do this in 2002. The team managed to break the 90-win barrier for the first time during this period (although they still finished third in the division), so maybe they didn't think the fans needed baseball card consolation prizes in '02. But they were back down to 85 wins in '03, which is fortunate at least for the excuse to bribe fans with more cool cards. And these are some of the best-looking of the bunch. Back to standard size, with cool black borders. And I especially love the custom pennants for each player. I wonder if they sold pennants with the same design at the stadium. The backs are nice, too, featuring another action photo in an uncluttered black-dominated design.

Disappointment: Two of the biggest. I never really jumped on the Gagne bandwagon, from the standpoint of becoming a huge fan of the player, though I was certainly awed by his "accomplishments" at the time. So his fall didn't hurt all that much. Lo Duca, on the other hand, was the biggest disappointment of the steroid era to me, personally, as he was my favorite player for a time. These two cards make me sad, which is a shame because they're pretty fabulous-looking cards.

2003 Dodgers Fan Appreciation Day Hideo Nomo LAD

Fortunately, it all comes full circle, with "The Warrior." (I don't remember that nickname capturing the imagination like "The Tornado" did). After being largely ineffective for five teams over the course of the past four years, Nomo returned to the Dodgers in 2002 and put up back-to-back 16-win seasons before losing his effectiveness for good.

It was difficult to appreciate these Dodgers teams, but with a little distance to ease the pain and apathy, these cards help to lessen the disappointment a little, and I appreciate that. Mission accomplished, Dodgers.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Just Commons: Just Canadians

Here we're gonna take a look at the O-Pee-Chee portion of my second Just Commons purchase (I've since made a third). My first buy from that site was split between O-Pee-Chees and Kershaws. For my second buy I took one more swipe at the Canadian gems and filled the other half of the order with future Playing With My Dodgers inductees.

1979 O-Pee-Chee Luis Tiant NYY #299

This card is a triple threat. I take a strange delight in cards of players who move between arch rivals. (Which really just means Dodgers-Giants and Yankees-Red Sox, as far as I'm concerned. Cardinals-Cubs is a bit too friendly to be interesting in this way.) The fact that Tiant is pictured in a Sox uni while being labeled as a Yank on the same card is its first virtue. The second is that Luis Tiant rocks (and twists, and turns, and gyrates with the best of 'em). The third is the Random factor, in this case the fact that, on a card with a caption that says "signed as a free agent," he's signing a ball. Random synchronicity.

1989 O-Pee-Chee 1988 World Series Game 4 (Tim Belcher) #177
1989 O-Pee-Chee 1988 World Series Game 5 (Mickey Hatcher) #254

O-Pee-Chee one-upped Topps by producing World Series cards in their 1989 set. Being a Dodger fan, I am immensely grateful to our north-o'-the-border card-producing neighbors for this. I've long had the Game 2 (Hershiser) card. Unfortunately, Just Commons didn't have the Game 1 card (Gibson, of course), so I still need that one. They had Game 3 (McGwire), but I wasn't about to go out of my way to get the only Dodger loss of the series before I have the Gibson card. That would be wrong.

1979 O-Pee-Chee Derrel Thomas LAD #359
1992 O-Pee-Chee Kip Gross LAD #372

Unfortunately, Just Commons doesn't have any 1980 O-Pee-Chees on offer, but I guess I wouldn't be complaining if they didn't have the '79s and just started with '81. So I hereby retract my mild complaint. Derrel Thomas was for me a prototype, as he was the first player I became aware of who would play just about any position on the field. I thought that was so cool as a ten year old. Kip Gross didn't make a huge impression as a Dodger (40 innings over two seasons). In fact, I really wish he'd been traded to the Angels instead. How cool would this card be, with this picture, if instead it read "Now with Angels"?

1992 O-Pee-Chee Eddie Murray NM #780
1991 O-Pee-Chee Kirk Gibson KCR #490

I was hoping to get the "Now with Dodgers" versions of these guys, but no dice. Since I couldn't get 'em coming, I got 'em going.

1987 O-Pee-Chee Vida Blue OAK #260
1987 O-Pee-Chee Reggie Jackson OAK #300

I couldn't pass up these fabulous swingin' A's cards, trying to recapture the magic of their '70s dynasty, right before the start of their '80s almost-dynasty (that the Dodgers helped to keep down). I also got the Ron Cey card (coming from the Cubs). Geeze, were they trying to be the Wheeze Kids, Part II? At least Eckersley worked out for them. (Except in the bottom of the ninth of game one of the '88 World Series! Whoo hoo! Worth mentioning at every possible opportunity.)

1986 O-Pee-Chee Joaquin Andujar OAK #150
1984 O-Pee-Chee Joe Morgan OAK #210

I actually got excited about OPC A's cards in general, mainly because I like the color green as a design element on cards. And these two have the added bonus of the festive holiday color combination. How cool would it be to decorate a tree with hundreds of such cards? Might have to make that happen some day...

The thing all of these cards have in common, of course, is that they diverge in some way from their Topps counterparts from the same set. It's unfortunate that Just Commons doesn't have any from 1977, because that set is the benchmark for variations. I was able to track these down easily by perusing GCRL's Oh My O-Pee-Chee blog, which is defunct, having exhausted its subject matter, but which serves as an excellent resource. Next to 1977, the 1992 set probably has the most desirable variations, including a good number of cards that didn't exist in the Topps set. For example...

1992 O-Pee-Chee Gary Carter Tribute MON #387
1992 O-Pee-Chee Gary Carter Tribute NYM #389

1992 O-Pee-Chee Gary Carter Tribute SFG #402
1992 O-Pee-Chee Gary Carter Tribute MON #45

I had picked up the Dodgers tribute card in my first Just Commons order, but had passed these up in protest of the card featuring Carter as a Friggin' Giant. But I relented with this second purchase. It had been kinda churlish to ignore three other great cards for that reason. And having four of the five wasn't going to work for my OCD, so they're all here now. In reality, I'm really kinda glad, thanks to a deep, dark secret that I've been keeping (and occasionally alluding to on these pages). Maybe someday I will have the courage to confess it. But not today.

1992 O-Pee-Chee Al Leiter TOR #394
1992 O-Pee-Chee Moises Alou MON #401

These two players didn't receive cards in the 1992 Topps base set because their playing time was limited (in the case of Alou, eliminated) due to injury the previous season. Just the kind of O-Pee-Chee oddball that excites a connoisseur of the Random, like myself.

1992 O-Pee-Chee Carl Willis MIN #393

Finally, I couldn't pass up this glorious Getting a Grip sample, also a card not featured in the Topps set. The omission of Willis is harder to explain, given his 2.63 ERA in 89 relief innings for the World Champion Twins in 1991. Willis also earns points in my book for being a longtime pitching coach.

There are a few O-Pee-Chee gems that I still have to track down, but thanks to Just Commons, that list has been shortened considerably.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Playing With My Dodgers: Larry Bowa

Larry Bowa is my kind of guy. A baseball lifer, passionate and knowledgeable, and just plain fun to watch work, whether as a player, manager, coach or commentator. I was pretty young when he retired as a player, but I have vague memories of the 1980 playoffs and World Series, and I saw him a fair number of times playing for the Cubs on Superstation WGN toward the end of his career.

He never played for the Dodgers, of course, but is a more-than-welcome addition to the Dodger family, having come from the Yankees to serve under Joe Torre in LA from 2008-2010. He certainly hadn't lost any of his fire. I remember him getting worked up on more than one occasion. I've enjoyed watching him on MLB Network for the past few years, but I'm glad to see him back in uniform, by the side of Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg (who was the seeming "throw-in" player acquired by the Cubs with Bowa for Ivan DeJesus in 1982).

2008 Topps Dodgers Premium Team Set Larry Bowa CO LAD #34

Yesterday I inducted two of the other cards from this set featuring members of the Los Angeles coaching staff into the PWMD pantheon. (Posts on back-to-back days? Shocking.) But this one is by far my favorite, and one of the main reasons that I went out of my way to track down the Premium Team Set.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Late-Inning Rally

I don't know how you people do it. By "you people," I mean the card bloggers out there who manage to post regularly, day after day, week after week, month after month, etc. The Dodgers make the playoffs... and I don't blog for a week. I need to dig up cards to send in return for a trade... and I don't blog for a week. I need to do laundry... and I don't blog for a week.

Well, it's not that bad. But almost. This latest dry spell in blogging comes courtesy of the ongoing, never-ending, multi-decade sorting project. So I'm still Playing With My Cards. I just don't have the kind of attention span that makes multitasking a possibility.

I am happy to say, however, that the sorting project has reached the letter L (sorting by player's last names). That means that I've arrived in the "sweet spot," between the places where I stalled in my last two attempts at sorting over the course of the past two decades, once from the beginning of the alphabet, and once working my way backward from Z. That means that I'm looking at cards that I haven't seen since I was a teenager. Believe me, that was a long time ago. I'm really looking forward to getting this job done because it will allow me to make trades far more easily, knowing what I need, what I have, and where to find it. (I'm a dreamer.)

I'm not gonna abandon things here, though. I may be flaky, but you're stuck with me (if I'm on your blogroll, that is). Since I've been blogging so little lately, I'm gonna give you a comeback rally post, with a little bit of everything from my stable of recurring features. Let's play...


About the only thing I managed to blog about in November was the great cards I received in a couple of trades with Michael from Nomo's Sushi Platter and Marcus of All the Way to the Backstop. I spent most of the rest of the month digging through my half-sorted collection to find cards to send in return. November also saw the arrival of my second package as a member of Club PWE from 2x3 Heroes...

2012 Topps Heritage Don Mattingly MG LAD #154
1996 Fleer/SkyBox Metal Universe Carlos Perez MON #193

As Jeff has noted, there are more Dodger fans in the blog world than there are cockroaches on this planet, so he makes good use of my "secondary" teams. He did manage to hit me with the Dodgers manager in addition to Eddie Murray with the Mets and some cool Expos cards including a Score Gold Rush Cliff Floyd, and this psychedelic Carlos Perez. Thanks Jeff! Random cards in the mail are always a welcome treat.


These are the virtual Dodgers cards that I (begin to) make every year. I showed the Kershaw card before the final Dodger game of the year, the card about that game in my depression, and the NLDS cards shortly thereafter to accentuate the positive. I also noted how unlikely it was that I would finish the set, and to date that prediction has proven accurate. I'm stalled at 22% completion.

2013 TBall Virtual Elian Herrera LAD #37
2013 TBall Virtual Drew Butera LAD #31

Here we have the two position players who played the least for the Dodgers in 2013 (four games each). This post is the perfect place for them because I don't have to say much about them. First things to come to mind: Butera's father Sal looked better with a mustache than without (drawing on my '80s collecting experience); Herrera is (unfortunately) the only Dodger I have in green parallel form from 2012 Panini Prizm. Moving on...


Still a weekend tradition, adding yet more cards to the unsorted side of the room.

1970 Kellogg's Joe Morgan HOU #72
1971 Topps Joe Morgan HOU #264

I'm just now wrapping up the assimilation into my collection of the cards that I bought on vacation this summer, when I first started this blog. These Morgans were among my favorite pickups from the card shop I visited. Both truly fabulous in their own way.

Then there's the pack-busting portion of my Card Night tradition. I managed to open a pack of 2009 Upper Deck in which I found four different Manny Ramirez cards... in one pack. That was kinda crazy. I've also managed to get a few nice "hits" lately.

2013 Topps Jose Fernandez AS SP MIA #589B

I probably wouldn't have even realized that this was a short print variation of Fernandez unless, in the very same pack of Topps Update, I also got his regular all-star card. But the best pack of cards that I've opened recently was from Panini Cooperstown. Six cards: Tony Perez, Harry Heilman, and...

2013 Panini Cooperstown Colgan's Chips Ernie Banks CHC
2013 Panini Cooperstown Duke Snider BRO #58

Cool. But also...

2013 Panini Cooperstown Blue Crystal Bob Gibson STL #84 (129/499)
2013 Panini Cooperstown Signatures Goose Gossage SDP #HOF-GOS (97/150)

Holy crap. Two hits in one six-card pack. Sweet! Guess that's why they're so friggin' expensive. Definitely worth the money this time, though. (Interesting that they chose to list San Diego as Goose's team, despite the fact that he's better known as a Yankee... and he's wearing a Yankee uniform in the photo. Odd.)


I've been slowly looking through this Bowman set, a recent purchase, on Card Nights...

2000 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Ryan Vogelsong SFG #63
2000 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Mark Buehrle CHW #69

And so far it's been loaded with Getting a Grip cards, including these fine examples. It's kinda cool to have a card of Vogelsong (or Volkswagen, as Jack McKeon calls him) from his first, pre-Japan, stint with the Friggin' Giants. Buehrle is one of those less-than-Hall-of-Fame-worthy aces that I dig so much. It's a shame he ever left Chicago.


I recently fulfilled a long-held desire by getting my hands on the 2008 Topps Dodgers Premium Team Set. I really wish Topps had kept making these things. If they were to do so for all 30 MLB clubs, that would make for a monster master set worth chasing. I'd dig that more than all of this parallel stuff. Don't get me wrong, I like seeing the same card in 37 different hues, with various degrees of shininess, refraction and sparkles. But I prefer cards of fringe players and coaches.

2008 Topps Dodgers Premium Team Set Mike Easler CO LAD #51
2008 Topps Dodgers Premium Team Set Bob Schaefer CO LAD #15

Where else was I going to find cards of Mike Easler and Bob Schaefer as Dodgers coaches for the PWMD set? I don't have much to say about them (which is why they're in this catch-all post). So I'll talk about the set some more. It gets a bit tedious with some overly-obscure season highlights and team leader cards among its 55-card checklist. But they're certainly worth the good stuff, including a Dodger Stadium card, which is always welcome. (No Vin Scully, though...) I've already thrown a couple of cards from the set (Beimel and Kuroda) into the Getting a Grip collection. And there will be more PWMD gems in the future.

Finally, a couple of notes from the blog world. Although it's probably counterproductive to my chances of winning, I feel compelled to point out that Topher from Crackin' Wax (with its sweet new logo) is celebrating his blog's fifth year by giving away lots and lots o' cards. Thanks Topher. Good luck to all of you (and to me, too!).

I also want to remind you all of Chris' great Typhoon Haiyan Relief Super Mixer Baseball Group Break, over at View from the Skybox, which is surprisingly taking a while to fill up. My wife and I joined immediately. It's not only a good cause, but it seems to me to be a pretty sweet break, especially if you're interested in getting your hands on this year's Topps mini cards from your favorite team.

Okay, that's all for now. See you in a week or so...